The Fear of Being Left Behind

28 Jun 2020



At the start of this pandemic, I finally found the language for something I’d experienced on a subtle level for a while. This was because the pandemic amplified it so much that I was able to feel around to define what it was. After some days trying to explore the reaches of what I was experiencing I surprised myself by defining it as a fear of being left behind.

I’m a naturally ambitious, intellectually active person. I get very passionate about various projects, hobbies and side hustles and I get quite a lot of pleasure from excelling at whatever I take on. If I learn something new, I struggle to stay in a phase of being incompetent at it. I will combat impatience with my own errors with a drive to get things right which often accelerates my learning. Becoming competent at a thing preoccupies me. I get enjoyment from the competency and then further to that, from the mastery of something. 

This has always been accompanied by a feeling that there are not enough hours in a day. I always wish I could do more. That when my health is impacted due to having a chronic illness, I feel sabotaged and sometimes trapped.


When my relationship to this ambition and drive and enjoyment of things was unhealthy, I would feel like I was not good enough, that I was never going to be. I would be crippled with guilt that I wasn’t putting in enough work (spoiler: I always was putting in enough). I would have a dark cloud over me ruminating over the many many plates I was always spinning, feeling like if I just chose ONE maybe I would be enough at it to satiate my demons. The guilt from loving many things at once was real. Being realistic about those things took work. I spent quite some time understanding what I thought enough was so I could release myself from the pursuit of it. I also did some deep self-acceptance work on being into so many things, with some great guidance from a wonderful mentor. Letting go of the former certainly helped accept the latter.

So it was wonderful to have the opportunity to explore the next level of both of these things when they came up during the start of social distancing. I have family members with health issues that make them quite vulnerable to COVID so I began working from home and self-isolating early. It was agony to watch people still pursuing all the hobbies I was not able to pursue, untouched by the self-isolation measures I had started to take. I couldn’t understand where the jealousy was coming from until I realised that, oh my god, I was afraid of being left behind. That other people would discover things before me. That my friends wouldn’t want to do our shared hobbies together because I was less interesting at a lower level than them. That I would be forgotten in the spheres I had been visible and sometimes leading in, because other people would step right into the work I had been doing and take it off me. If I couldn’t keep up, would that make me nothing?



No. Obviously. 

To combat it, I had to use logic and observation tools to connect me back to reality. These were some of the things I observed that helped

I didn’t build a single skill I have in a day. I’m also not going to lose them in one either.

I have time. I have so much time. I have a whole lifetime ahead of me and many opportunities to explore everything I want.

I chase things because they make me feel good, not because of how accomplished I look. When I have opportunities again, I will also have the drive to chase the things. And if I don’t have the drive, why bother chasing something that doesn’t make me happy?

The road to mastery is not always linear.

It is not mastery in things that makes me worth something, it’s who I am. There is always time to invest in, explore and grow who I am. 

If I did have to relearn anything, it’s easy to learn it a second time. The body remembers.



Something I had reaffirmed for me as well is that I’m an active person. Not active as in, always going to the gym and running. I’m active as in, I get a lot of joy from throwing myself into many many activities At the moment, it’s directing an online podcast as well as writing, music and photography. I’m currently actively involved in two theatre companies and am on the board for one of those. I have thrown myself behind the isolation projects of friends where I can. I’ve done video work for Ballarat Heritage Weekend. I’m happiest when I doing.

Anyway, the point here was to say, this is a feeling I absolutely have, that I’m being left behind in all areas and that maybe I won’t be enough because of it. If you’ve had these feelings before, what do they look like for you?


Oh yeah.
Pics my me, hacked together very quickly at sunset using my tripod and an out of focus camera.
Dress from Showpo.



- L

2 comments

  1. It's funny how you worry about being left behind but then when you think you're not doing much your able to lots of things like the podcast, the theatre companies, your videos and these images. Although for you it's not much.

    I relate so much, although for me it's not so much the recent isolation but having 3 little kids, none of which are school age. I constantly feel like I'm missing out or not doing enough, although not in comparison to others but in comparison to my former life with a career, hobbies, travel and mostly time!!

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  2. I'm not sure if this totally relates but when I was a young adult travelling overseas on my own for a couple of years, not having any contact with my family and friends (but making new friends), I relished the feeling of getting things done in my own time and in my own way. I think I experienced sometimes being the last one to do things and that was OK. That feeling of acceptance has never left me.

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